Taking a break from knitting and made cookies last night. I shied away from rolled cookie cutter cookies for years, but really they are not as laborious as I thought. I made the dough one day and divided it into four balls to chill in the freezer. Then on the next day I rolled out one ball, cut out the cookies and baked them and repeated the process once using up the scraps for a second tray of cookies. (Hint: just bake those cooky scrap shapes as is after the second rolling instead of tossing them out. They taste just as good and then you can save the pretty shaped ones for company.) Two trays of cookies is enough for a few days and then I just grab another dough ball from the frig when we need more. This way I spend only about a half hour a time making cookies and don't get burned out on the process. As an extra bonus the cookies are always fresh. Happy holiday baking everyone!
Wednesday, December 18, 2013
Sunday, December 15, 2013
Hello Everyone! I am having a Solstice Sale in the Etsy shop and Zibbet shop this week from December 15th - 22nd. For 15% off your purchases on Etsy use the coupon code "SOLSTICE15" upon checkout. For Zibbet the prices are already discounted so you just shop as normal. Thanks for all your support this year and have a happy holiday season!
Tuesday, November 12, 2013
Hello! I have a new skein fresh off the wheel this week that I'm quite pleased to show you. It's a 2ply with the first ply being spun from a mixed batt of planted dyed merino, silk, BFL and domestic wool in beautiful shades of blue with a hints of lime green and purple from MamaJudes down in Georgia. The second ply was spun from Baby Suri Alpaca in a beautiful natural charcoal grey color from Sunrise Suris in Iowa. It was my first time spinning Baby Suri Alpaca and man it practically spun itself it drafted so easily!
I only got about 100 yards of worsted weight yarn out of the Baby Suri Aplpaca since I could only afford a small 2oz. package. See, I am trying to stick to my fiber budget. Do you have a budget for fiber? Well, I found out I needed one since I overspend at every single fiber festival/show/store I go to. But, to really make my budget stick I have to remove my debit/credit card and checkbook from my wallet and bring only what I can spend in cash. I have no will power you see and am very skilled at talking myself into purchases I don't need. This trick works like a charm though, and I highly recommend it if you have overspending issues. It's sad that I only got a little of a fantastic fiber, but then I have already spun it and it's not just languishing in my stash (this happens to so much fiber and yarn when I overspend).
Hmmm... this post was supposed to be about yarn not budgets. Well, I do tend to go on tangents. I listed this skein in my Etsy shop so stop by and check it out if you are looking for a silky soft squishy yarn treat!
Joining in with Nicole for Keep Calm Craft On.
Friday, November 8, 2013
I thought I'd introduce you today to what is new in my shop - large 14 inch tall gnomes! They are from a pattern written by myself which I hope to have available in my shop in the next few months. I really hate seaming so I went about devising a pattern for gnomes that would be knit in the round. It has a smoother look to it that I adore. The pattern will be in 3 sizes - mama, child and baby. So far, I have the mama and child listed in the shop with the baby on it's way. I need to dream up a knitted sling for the mama to carry the baby in first. Here's a look at my samples below.
As well as trying out a new pattern I am also trying out a new online venue to sell through called Zibbet. You can see my shop here. I have put everything on sale for 20% off to celebrate the grand opening. Why a new shop you may ask? Well, Etsy has been good to me, but it's gotten so large and their rules for what is considered handmade includes just about anything now that I feel I'm not being represented well. Please let me know what you think about the new pattern and shop and if you would be interested in test knitting in the future. Have a great weekend!
Friday, October 18, 2013
You might have guessed by now how much I like rainbows if you have visited here or my shop, so today's post should come as no surprise. Fresh off my spinning wheel this week is a self striping skein of a bright rainbow yarn. I completely geeked out while making it and seeing the rainbow appear on my bobbin that I stopped to take a picture.
I then plied it with a ply of BFL wool/silk blend in a cream grey color. Above are the results. I would like to learn how to mix two rainbow ply together matching up the colorways so they don't overly bleed into the next color, but I'm not sure how to make each color strand the same length. I see some experimenting in my future. This skein came out at 148 yards and is available in my Etsy shop for purchase. I have more of the rainbow wool so what do you think I should ply it with next the next time I spin? I'm thinking a light blue might be really pretty, but I am up for suggestions.
Wednesday, October 16, 2013
I've been wanting to knit a teddy bear for some time now, but just haven't been able to find the right one. The patterns are either too complicated, take too long to knit or are simple enough, but I don't like how it looks until I found this pattern. I knit it with some of my earliest handspun yarn (very lumpy bumpy thick thin) that I just dyed with avocado skins. The resulting color of the yarn was a warm pinky tan which, oddly enough, was about the color of my first teddy bear Fred. Hmm...do you think that's where I got the idea?
Please excuse the dark pictures as we have been having some truly gloomy days here in Minnesota. The only thing I did not like about this pattern was the very thin neck so I gave him a little red garter stitch scarf to ward off the cold. I'm already knitting another version out of my black walnut dyed yarn. This time around I'm knitting the neck thicker and the head bigger (my mom's request) and will see if he"ll need a scarf or not. This first one in now available in my Etsy shop if you think you can provide him with a loving home please purchase.
For books, I'm still reading A Thomas Jefferson Education. With the darker days and earlier evenings I'm finding it hard to read at night and quite frankly, I keep falling asleep. My guess is I just have to find another reading time while it's light out, but then what to do with Sam? When do you find time to read?
Saturday, October 12, 2013
I've had the itch to dye some yarn this week and because of the season I decided to use black walnuts. My friend's yard gets littered with the walnuts each Fall so I knew right where to lay my hands on some. Her daughter kindly collected a large bagful for me and I paid her a little something for her efforts - a win win! I placed the black walnuts in my large 5 gallon dye pot along with enough water to fill it within a few inches of the rim. They simmered for about 2 hours at which time I strained off the walnuts leaving a lovely dark brown dye bath. While the pot was simmering on the stove I soaked some previously mordanted (I use alum and cream of tartar) handspun and machine spun yarn. Then I placed the wetted yarn in the dye pot and simmered them for about 1 hour. The results were a lovely warm medium brown color. I wanted to see what other shades I could get from this dye bath so some of the yarn went back in to see how dark I could make it and I added a couple of fresh skein to create a lighter shade. You can see the processes below.
Black walnuts simmering away. I kept this covered as it can be a little smelly.
Yarn soaking in sink. If throughly wetted the yarn will soak up the dye evenly with no splotches. Some skeins were previously dyed with osage orange wood chips or annatto seeds but I didn't just love the color so I decided to over-dye them.
Here are the final results drying in the sunshine outside.
The black walnuts were such a success I wanted to dye more yarn. Dyeing is just as addictive as knitting and spinning for me, but thankfully I go in waves so I don't permanently overtake our tiny kitchen. I have been collecting avocado skins for some months as I heard they are used as a dyestuff and really, since we were eating them anyway it makes them free (just like the walnuts - are you seeing a theme?)
Here is the surprising color made by avocado skins. I found out later I could have used the pits as well as the skins. Which would have helped dye more yarn as it's a 1:1 ratio by weight.
Here are my single plies drying outside. I spun them last spring and it has been satisfying to see I have improved quite a bit since then. Practice, practice, practice as they say.
Here is a closeup of the peachy tan color. It kind of reminds me of dyeing with tea by how the yarn looks more aged than colored. I think it would make a great skin tone for gnome doll faces.
I will spin more singles to ply with the walnut and avocado skeins. I've already made this skein with a confetti colored ply (also plant dyed, but with exotic plants mainly) which is already available in my etsy shop SimplyPlaying. It's twin skein is still drying, but will probably be listed by tomorrow. The really lumpy bumpy slubby yarn I will knit with myself probably into some more toys for the shop. I'm off to clean up my mess in the kitchen now. Just on a side note, black walnuts contain a toxin that prevents other plants from growing so it is best to throw it in your garbage rather than composting.
Hello. As I mentioned in my last post I am having a giveaway this weekend. You can find it at the lovely Small Things blog where I am a sponsor. I will be giving away one Small Things reader the below pictured 70 yard skein of worsted weight rainbow handspun wool/angora yarn along with one of my jewelry making kits (also pictured below.) There is also a coupon code that can be used for the month of October for 15% all items in my Etsy shop SimplyPlaying.
Head on over to Ginny's blog Small Things and find out how you can enter to win these two items and for the coupon code to be used in my shop. Good luck everyone!
Wednesday, October 9, 2013
Well, I have been flipping from knitting project to knitting project this week. Not quite sure why I am so unsettled and unfocused. Maybe it's the darkening days here in the North which are leaving me with the feeling of having to hurry and finish knitting everything (and let me tell you I have quite a few works in progress) before it gets cold. As I said last week, many of my knitting projects are big ones so the end is not in sight for most of them. This "hurry up" attitude makes me want to complete something, anything really. So, I've turned to making toys for my etsy store instead of working on my personal knitting. I settled on chickens as they are quick to knit and let's face it - so cute to boot!
These chickens are stuffed with a wooden egg for the body with just a bit wool for the head.
Here is my array of chicken body colors; all will have red feathers and beaks. Some use my own handspun yarn and the yarns are either in the fiber's natural color or plant dyed.
As for reading, I haven't done much this week; again trouble with focusing. But, I did at least start A Thomas Jefferson Education : Teaching a Generation of Leaders For The Twenty-First Century by Oliver Van DeMille. A homeschooling friend of mine recommended it and so far as the first 20 pages go I am intrigued, but feel it pertains more to older children (my Sam is just 7.) Maybe by next week's Yarn Along I can tell you more.
Be sure to check back here this Saturday the 13th for another Giveaway!
Tuesday, October 8, 2013
Left over yarn drives me nuts. I love using up every little bit on a project, but rarely does this happen. Then, what do I do with the leftovers? The little itty bitty bits go into making pillow stuffing like I mention here and the longer yarn scraps I use to continue my snail like progress on my I-Cord Rug, but this time I thought of another I-Cord idea - a necklace. I usually don't wear necklaces because the weight pulls on my neck and gives me a headache, but a knitted necklace weighs almost nothing so I gave it a try.
Here are the results below.
Thanks to Sam's pumpkin for modeling.
I knit all my leftover bulky weight yarn from my cowl and mitts into a long 3 stitch i-cord. Then, I wrapped all three loops with a piece of plant dyed felt in a light orange also a left over but from toy making. Finally, I snugly wrapped some sport weight yarn in dark orange and brown around the felt. All this wrapping keeps the loops in a fixed position and gives a nice color contrast as well as a focal point to the necklace.
Remember from this last post how I was debating on whether or not to embroider the backs of the mitts? Well, I decided to stitch some very simple randomly placed orange flowers with brown french knot centers to coordinate with my new necklace. What do you think? I am really quite pleased with the overall look even if it limits their wear-ability to certain colored clothing.
Orange, turquoise and brown just really jibe I think.
Here they are together. Honestly, I like them both better than the cowl which was my original intention with this yarn. Funny how limits, like short yardage, really can inspire your creativity.
Joining in with Nicole for Keep Calm and Craft On.
Saturday, October 5, 2013
I've been knitting a lot for my etsy shop lately and feeling like all my personal projects are backing up and stalling out. That afghan I was knitting on earlier in the week has already been put aside to make some knitted chickens for the shop (I'll post on them later) as they are small and easy to finish. All my other knitting seems to be big and long in process so I decided to stash bust a few bulky skeins from Luna Grey Fiber Arts. Something quick and easy seemed just the thing to give me a sense of accomplishment and some much needed forward movement. Below is what I came up with a simple loosely knit ribbed cowl and some matching fingerless mitts.
The cowl was knit with size 13 needles and took me a mere 2 hours last night to knit. And for the record, I am a slow to average knitter so this was really fast for me. As you can see I already have it blocking and this morning I knit up one of a pair of fingerless mitts. Hopefully this afternoon I will finish the other of the pair and that will be two skeins out of my yarn stash knit into useful items. I will still have some leftover yarn, which drives me nuts by the by, but maybe I'll knit some kind of bracelet/cuff just to use it up. What do you think about doing some embroidery on the backs of the mitts? I was thinking an orange flower/s might be fun as almost everything in my wardrobe (if you can call my collection of clothes that) is solid colored, but then it might also limit their wear-ability. Any thoughts?
Joining in with Linda for Creative Friday on a Saturday.
Wednesday, October 2, 2013
Taking a break from serious reading this week as I find myself perusing a knitting book called Fair Isle Style over and over. Do I need another knitting project? A resounding "NO!" can be heard echoing throughout my house, but dreaming is always fun. I especially like the Reeva Hat in a traditional tam beret style.
On my needles is an afghan I began last Spring using this pattern with a mix of Lorna's Laces worsted weight yarn. The pattern is so simple and a really fun knit as you really could just stop at any time. You start from the middle and work you way out in consecutive squares (the designer also has a circular version.) So, you could stop right away and have a coaster or a hot pad, then maybe after a little more a chair cushion or pillow, next up a lap blanket or wall hanging, my destination - afghan would be next or finally a bedspread. Really, a low pressure pattern. I left it over the summer as, let's face it, wool is hot when draped all over you. Now, with the cooler temps it has been calling my name. I'm hoping to knock it out quickly so I can move on to my holiday gift knit list. Oh, if I would only start on that list in July. Sigh.
Saturday, September 28, 2013
I was sorting through our many photos, as tonight is my monthly Scrapbooking Night Out, and came across these two pictures which I thought I'd share with you all. The photos aren't fabulous, but the idea I believe is one worth sharing.
We were invited to a 1st birthday party for a daughter of a high school friend and then promptly forgot about the party until the morning of. We needed to come up with a gift and fast. Luckily, I had a gnome doll already knit up and Sam chose one of his own books, Peter in Blueberry Land by Elsa Beskow, to give to baby Erica. Now, all that we needed was to wrap it up, but there was our true problem. We don't use gift wrap. I usually make a wrapping cloth or bag to give along with the gift, but all I had on hand was Christmas themed. I didn't have any fabric, but I did have some old jeans that I had been using to patch the knees on Sam's pants (really all his pants knees blew out at once and I sewed 9 pairs in 3 days - whew!) It occurred to me that I could just seam up the bottom of a pant leg and would have an instant gift bag. So, I did just that and then finger knit some bulky weight yarn (on the car ride over to their house) to tie it closed. I was so pleased I cannot tell you! Now, we could have just gone out and purchased a gift bag and tissue, but it really goes against our principles on waste. This bag was reusable and best of all recycled too! If you have any old jeans on hand I recommend you give it a try.
Joining in with Linda for Creative Friday on a Saturday!
Wednesday, September 25, 2013
So, I'm only into the 4th week of homeschooling my seven year old and already I'm thinking of changing our curriculum. Did/does this happen to any you? Sam has been very resistant to the Waldorf based lessons and after attending our MHA Homeschooling Conference I'm seeing that there are many, many other ways of teaching that might suit Sam better. Individualized teaching is a major perk to home educating right? I've started by reading this simple book called The Three R's by Harriet Beechick. I like it, but it's a little loose for me. I'm realizing I like lessons spelled out a bit more with flexibility for sure and Sam likes games, modeling and anything active. We're going to head out to the only homeschool bookstore in the state, Heppner's Books, this afternoon and see what they can help us find that might be a good fit for both of us.
Knitting wise I am still working on the socks I started from our trip to Lake Superior. I decided to step it up a bit and get them finished (usually I just keep them in my purse to fill in any down time out and about) as it is getting noticeably cooler here. I just used Wendy D. Johnson's Gusset Heel Basic Sock pattern and added a knit three purl one rib to it. I'm pleased and can't wait to wear them.
Tuesday, September 24, 2013
Since we are homeschooling this year, we decided to take a trip the weekend after Labor Day instead of before with the thought of less people, traffic etc. Did it work? A resounding YES! We ventured north, as Minnesotans are wont to do in the summer time, to Lutsen, MN along the northern shore of Lake Superior. It is where I went as a child with my family, where we went for our honeymoon and as a young couple and I couldn't wait to show Sam the beauty of it all. We stayed at Cascade Lodge, which has been around since the thirties, in one of their "cabinettes" meaning 4 "cabins" in one building. It was cheaper and still woodsey, but I think next time we will stay in a cabin with a kitchenette to save on food expenses.
Sam and Dan at Gooseberry Falls - High Falls section on the journey north.
Dan and Sam at Cascade Falls State Park.
Finding a walking stick along the way is a must for this family.
Cascade Falls looking like root beer at the bottom don't you think?
Dan and I with Lake Superior in the background.
Lake Superior coastline at Lutsen, MN.
The blazing fire Dan and Sam built on the rocks of the shore on our last night there.
Me wearing the socks I just finished on the trip and starting up another pair.
Winter is coming soon you know.
Here's a close up of those socks. I can't find the yarn tag to tell you what yarn/colorway it is though.
Here's the socks I started up north from yarn (Fortissima Colorpack 1) I purchased at Yarn Harbor in Duluth. A little more Caribbean blue than Superior blue, but it's a nice remembrance from our trip.
We enjoyed all the hiking, waterfalls (really can anyone have enough of seeing waterfalls?), the city of Grand Marais, The Angry Trout restaurant in said city, swimming at the community pool, playing tether ball and Foosball at the Lodge, knitting, campfires, stargazing and lastly the serene beauty of Lake Superior. Did Sam enjoy the trip? Why yes, yes he did. In fact he kept saying "This is so Awesome!" so many times Dan and I couldn't stop laughing at his exuberance. What a trip! We loved it so much we're going back next year, that is, the weekend after Labor Day.
Oh, and I'm still working on the socks. Just turned the heel today!
Joining in with Nicole for Keep Calm Craft On.
Friday, September 20, 2013
Hello everyone! I was inspired last night after putting Sam to bed and spun up this mini yarn skein of about 70 yards. Using my favorite angora/wool blended cloud roving for one ply and for the other ply some wool roving that my friend Judy of mamajudes on Etsy plant dyed in a graduated pastel rainbow colorway. Judy uses a mixed breed roving from Brown Sheep Company which is strong and makes a firm ply, but it's not the softest. Since I value softness, I felt that to make a pleasing yarn it really needed to be blended with the angora. This is also a good way to make the plant dyed fiber stretch a bit farther.
Here is the skein along with the rovings I used to create it.
A closeup before washing. It will "bloom" fluff out some more after having a bath.
I wish there was more yardage as I very pleased with how the skein turned out. I still have some of both of the rovings in which to make more yarn and I think I'll sell that as yarn instead of knitting toys from it. How many yards do you think is needed to make a useful skein of DK/Worsted weight yarn?
Wednesday, September 18, 2013
I'd like to say I'm reading some incredibly witty totally enthralling book, but alas I cannot. Lately, I am spending my nights reading and re-reading the curriculum we chose to educate our 7 year old son . It comes from here and is based in the Waldorf methodology. It is in itself a very interesting read, don't get me wrong, but sometimes I feel a bit lost in the cosmos of Waldorf schooling. Some aspects of it come very naturally to me and other are a bit confounding. I'm beginning to see why so many homeschoolers label themselves as "eclectic", taking bits and pieces from many sources, as it's hard to make everything in a single curriculum work for your child. It's our first year homeschooling and there is much to learn for both Sam and I, so I think I will be spending much more time with this "book' for the foreseeable future.
On the fiber side of my life I am knitting up a pair of mittens for myself. I just finished a pair for my mom to match her mother's day hat (photos to come soon) and I thought I would do the same for mine. What? You don't knit yourself hats for mother's day? You totally should; it's a good tradition. The pattern for the mittens is a simple one and I don't know whose it is or where I got it from, but I use it every year around this time. I'm enjoying knitting with two circulars instead of double pointed needles as it seems to have taken care of my "ladder" problems that I was experiencing before on my first attempt. The yarn is some handspun of my own, which I thankfully made enough of, and is a mix of BFL, alpaca, domestic wool and silk. It's really scrumptious and squishy.
That's all for now. Joining in with Ginny for Yarn Along.
Friday, September 13, 2013
Have you ever knit with angora yarn? It's ever so lovely and soft as it passes through your fingers. Since embarking on "The Naturals" kitty cat gang and knitting one of the cats from my gray angora hand-spun yarn, I've been a bit obsessed with angora and can't stop knitting and spinning with it. My fiber comes from a lovely woman named Mary Lou who runs Angora Gardens along with her daughters. I met her this past Spring at Yarnover, the annual knitting/spinning/all things fiber conference here in Minnesota, and the moment I touched the fibers she had for sale I was hooked. I purchased her grey cloud roving, which is a blend of 60% sheep's wool with 40% angora fiber, that day to spin my own yarn.
I had plans for the freshly spun angora yarn to line mittens and hats for some extra soft warmth, but my plans took a turn to toys instead. What better fiber to knit stuffed bunnies with but with bunny fur itself! So, now that I knew what I wanted to knit with my yarn I embarked on finding the perfect bunny rabbit pattern. The two I liked best was this one where the bunny is made from a simple square of stockinette knitting and this one which is knit in the round using double pointed needles. Neither was quite right until I combined them and gave the ears of one to the body of another, thus making, in my eyes, the perfect bunny. This bunny, along with it's predecessors, are in my shop now for purchase. But, you can also win one in a giveaway over at Linda's blog Natural Suburbia where I am a new sponsor. Head on over to Natural Suburbia tomorrow to learn some more about me and my business Simply Playing and of course see how you can win the sweet angora bunny pictured in the third photo below!
Good luck everyone and have a joyous weekend!
Bunny number one I thought the ears were too floppy.
Bunny number two I missed having any back legs and found the pattern a little too fussy for my taste.
Bunny number three I just love! All four legs, simple pattern and ears that stand up - perfect!
Wednesday, September 11, 2013
Fall is coming, so I'm told, although the Summer like temps tell a different story here in Minnesota it's time. Time for what you ask? Why school and sweaters of course! This will be our second attempt at Homeschooling our son Sam. The first time was when he was 4 and what can I say, I just wasn't ready for it? Now Sam is 7 and we are starting first grade at home this year. We're dipping our toes in slowly and taking it day by day. So, I thought I would do some more general reading and this book "The Homeschooling Handbook" came highly recommended. Thus far I am really enjoying it - very palatable style.
Sweaters on the other hand, I have lots of experience doing and they are my all time favorite item to knit. I am making Sam another Wallaby sweater this year. His modifications are no hood and extra long arms so he can stick his thumbs out of a hidden hole in the cuffs (think fingerless mitts attached to the sweater arm). We purchased the yarn at Yarn Harbor in Duluth on our way home from a long weekend along the North Shore of Lake Superior. Sam chose good old Cascade 220 in a the fancy Paints Blue colorway. I was thankful for this because normally I have to talk him down from a very expensive yarn to something more reasonable on my wallet.
Thursday, August 29, 2013
I'm in the midst of a summer cold which has settled into my head in these last few days of August. So, sitting here in my favorite chair (one of those Poang Ikea bent wood chairs in case you're wondering) resting, I look over to my spinning wheel and the half finished yarn being plied and I think "I have enough energy for that". I then sit and pedal my way through finishing the skein of yarn. It's a lovely blend of merino wool, which is the white ply, and a plant dyed mixed fiber batt in pastel tones. The skein came out a worsted weight with only about 140 yards. It's destiny will be knitted cats and gnomes I think as I'm just not quite ready yet to sell my yarn as well, yarn.
This is the completed yarn wound on my Ashford Jumbo Flyer Bobbin.
And here it is wound on to a Niddy Noddy. I count how many wraps to determine yardage.
Lastly you see it wound into a skein form. Lots of winding in making yarn!
Now the yarn is still not ready to knit with and must go through a soak with a little soap to set the twist and let the fibers "bloom" or puff out so to speak. Then I'll rinse it and hang it dry. When it's dry I'll take the skein and place it onto a swift and use my ball winder to wind it into a center pull ball ready for knitting. After I started spinning yarn I have deep appreciation for the amount of effort goes into each skein. Of course, mainly machines do these tasks now, but still the amount of steps really is amazing.
Joining Linda on Creative Friday on a Thursday :)